August 30, 2011 in City

City OKs Waste-to-Energy deal

Wheelabrator contract keeps plant open three years
By The Spokesman-Review
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Background and the latest updates

Covering costs

Increased curbside trash collection rates are proposed for next year, in part to help cover the cost of the proposed tipping fee increase paid by the city, county and other dump customers. Under a plan still not approved by the City Council, rates for a 68-gallon bin would increase by $1.42 a month, said Solid Waste Director Scott Windsor.

City leaders on Monday agreed for the second time this year to a deal that keeps Spokane’s Waste-to-Energy Plant open another three years.

The Spokane City Council voted 6-1 to approve an operating contract with Wheelabrator, the Waste Management subsidiary that has operated the plant since it opened. The city’s current 20-year deal with Wheelabrator expires in November.

Under the new terms the city will pay the company about $800,000 more a year.

An earlier deal with Wheelabrator fell apart after county officials said it included costs to pay for plant upgrades that aren’t needed within the years that the contract includes. County commissioners hope to leave the city-managed system in three years.

The city of Spokane operates the plant and currently oversees the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System, which includes all of Spokane County. But commissioners have a say on some decisions.

City Attorney Howard Delaney told the council that the new contract with Wheelabrator is small enough to avoid needing commissioners’ approval.

Commissioners, however, will get a say on a proposed tipping fee increase from $98 to $108 a ton – the amount the regional system charges to accept garbage at the plant and transfer stations. Tipping fees haven’t increased for about a decade.

The new deal maintains a stipulation that could make it difficult to attract multiple bids when a new contract is considered in three years. The earlier deal had removed a stipulation that required the city to offer Wheelabrator a chance to meet the low bid of a winning bidder. But once county commissioners objected to the costlier contract, city officials agreed to keep the requirement with Wheelabrator in the deal in exchange for lower prices.

Councilman Bob Apple cast the lone vote in opposition. He argued that it would be cheaper for the city to close the plant and truck its garbage elsewhere.

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